Long before Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke revolutionized the “soulful white brother” persona, there was Jon B. Who could forget his smooth ’90s hit that had all the lovers singing “They Don’t Know?”
The 37-year-old Grammy Award winner recently sat down with Loop 21 to discuss his sixth studio record, Comfortable Swagg, and how he’s navigating through today’s music scene.
Loop 21: Your new album is titled Comfortable Swagg. Can you explain what it means?
Jon B: It means you’re comfortable in how you carry yourself. Everybody wants to feel good. I’m coming into my own; I’m 37 with my own label. I’m still in the game with a proven name. I still have sold-out shows. I don’t have anybody over my head telling me what’s gonna work and what’s not. All I know is I like the song and it comes out as a hit, that’s all I know. I don’t know about writing a song and putting it out and having nobody know it. All my records went platinum and gold. If people just listen to the music and they don’t pay attention to the fact that I’m not on the radio all the time, that my videos aren’t being blasted on MTV every 5 minutes, they’ll see that the quality has not changed, it stayed consistent.
Loop 21: Would you say that comfortable swagg is something that comes with age?
Jon B: Not necessarily. When I was 18 or 19, I wild-out and I did my thing, but I know that I was trying to personify people like Michael Jackson and I rocked the pinstripe suits in the “They Don’t Know” video like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. You grow up being influenced by certain cultures and sounds, you’re gonna adopt those elements and you’re gonna make them yours. At first people may look at you like, ‘You’re rocking a fedora?!,’ but then they accept it. Now that people understand who I am, it’s really about celebrating the music and not questioning it in any way.